Comic Review: The Death of Superman (2016 Edition)

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Art by: Jon Bogdanove, Brett Breeding, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice, Dan Jurgens

DC Comics, 212 Pages

Review:

I have read the Death of Superman issue several times over the years. However, I have never read the full story with everything leading up to that iconic issue, which took the world by storm at the end of 1992.

The story is pretty good, even if it’s really just several issues of the weakest Justice League lineup in history trying to stop Doomsday until Superman shows up. Every issue is action-packed as this entire story is just one massive fight between several heroes and one, seemingly unstoppable enemy.

And that’s certainly not a bad thing, as this did a superb job of telling an action-filled story and keeping each chapter interesting and new. It also adds in some subplots around the larger story, so that it can be broken up a bit.

Some subplots creep in, though, where I didn’t know what was really going on, like the stuff with Lex Luthor II and Supergirl. I wasn’t reading Superman in this era, so I was at first confused as to why Supergirl was with him and why Lex had ginger hair and a beard.

I thought that the art in this was good and the pacing of the story was pretty superb.

All in all, this was a pretty good read, better than I thought it’d be, and it features one of the greatest Superman throwdowns in the history of the character. And it was a hell of an introduction to Doomsday. 

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: What If…? (2021- )

Original Run: August 11th, 2021 – current
Created by: A.C. Bradley
Directed by: Bryan Andrews
Written by: A.C. Bradley, Matthew Chauncey
Based on: Marvel Comics
Music by: Laura Karpman
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, various

Marvel Studios, Disney+, 6 Episodes (so far), 31-37 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Marvel’s What If…? is like all things MCU since Avengers: Endgame, a mixed bag of good and stupid.

So let me start by saying that I did enjoy some episodes of this show, while others were absolute shit like the one that sees Black Panther become Star Lord, which doesn’t make a lick of sense and also had a side plot about Thanos not committing universal genocide because T’Challa simply talked him out of it. That episode made me facepalm, repeatedly, so hard that I broke my nose about seven times.

Anyway, it’s clear that Disney is using this show to push certain social narratives without really caring about what that does to the continuity of the second greatest franchise they’ve ever had. But just like the once greatest franchise, Star Wars, Disney is out to wreck this one too.

So for the positives, I mostly liked the Peggy Carter episode, as well as the Doctor Strange one. While the T’Challa one was, hands down the worst, the others weren’t too bad, they just didn’t do much for me.

I was most excited to see that they would do with the Marvel Zombies concept, as some of those comics were fun as hell. Well, I’m glad that they tried something original with it, story-wise. However, it just didn’t hold my attention and was really underwhelming.

Also, I’m not big on the animation style. I really didn’t like it at first but my brain did adjust to it fairly quickly. The main problem with it, is that it looks almost too generic and in the Marvel Zombies episodes, for instance, I had a hard time telling some characters apart because they looked too similar.

When Disney first announced all the Marvel shows that would be coming to Disney+, this is one of the ones I was most excited for. I have loved the What If? comics since I started reading comics. Out of all of the issues that exist with great premises and alterations to continuity, I found it really disappointing that these were the stories they went with to kick off this series. But I guess I just shouldn’t expect much from Disney, at this point.

Rating: 6/10

Comic Review: Avengers: Citizen Kang

Published: 1992
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: Larry Alexander, Geof Isherwood, Herb Trimpe, Dan Panosian (cover)

Marvel Comics, 223 Pages

Review:

Citizen Kang wasn’t just an Avengers story, it spanned four different annuals in 1992 and also featured the Fantastic Four quite heavily, as well as some characters from the Inhumans and Eternals.

It’s a damn cool story if you are a fan of Kang the Conqueror, as I am. Back when this was current, I loved the story because it gives you the full backstory of Kang up to this point in his history. A lot of the pages collected here are flashback stuff but it’s not by any means boring, even if you know Kang’s previous stuff. Reason being, Kang’s a complicated character with multiple versions of himself running around. So this served to give you the CliffsNotes version of that complicated history.

But this isn’t just a condensed history of Kang, that’s just a small part of this total package. This actually sees Kang try to take down his enemies, be they actual heroes or other villains that have caused him problems.

This was an ambitious and big story and I thought that Roy Thomas delivered. Being that he had been at Marvel for a few decades at the time that he wrote this, he knew a lot of these characters and their histories together very well.

Also, being that this is four annuals collected into one volume, it also includes all the extra side stories and supplemental material. My only gripe with this release was how it was all organized. It just pieced the four annuals together as they were printed. I would have rather had the main story flow in order and then tack on all the extras at the end, instead of having them feel like roadblocks between each main chapter.

Still, everything in this was entertaining and hit its mark.

Rating: 8/10

Film Serial Review: Zorro’s Black Whip (1944)

Release Date: November 16th, 1944 (first chapter)
Directed by: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Wallace Grissel
Written by: Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Grant Nelson, Joseph Poland, Johnston McxCulley (original Zorro novel)
Cast: Linda Stirling, George J. Lewis, Lucien Littlefield, Francis McDonald

Republic Pictures, 182 Minutes (total over 12 chapters)

Review:

Zorro’s Black Whip is pretty unusual, as Republic Pictures didn’t have the rights to use the Zorro character in a film but they could still use the name. So with that, they created this serial where the Zorro-esque hero is named The Black Whip and is, in fact, a dame!

The story also takes place in Idaho, a far departure from southern California, even though that’s where this would’ve been filmed.

I like the heroine and thought that Linda Stirling did a pretty decent job as a female version of Zorro with a different name. 

The rest of the cast was about as good as film serial casts go. No one really stood out other than the lead.

The story was a bit all over the place and I thought that the chapter cliffhangers were fairly weak and mundane. Honestly, in a lot of ways, the writing and the situations were incredibly derivative for the genre style.

Still, this did have some spirit for something that was a gender-swapped generic ripoff of a popular hero.

In the end, this is very far from being the best representation of “Zorro” but it’s also not dreadful. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, though.

Rating: 4.5/10

Comic Review: Moon Knight by Bendis and Maleev – Ultimate Collection

Published: March 7th, 2018
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev

Marvel Comics, 264 Pages

Review:

After reading through the lengthy Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev run on Daredevil, I figured I’d give their run on Moon Knight a shot.

Reason being, I mostly liked Bendis’ Daredevil stuff other than how he didn’t know how to bring it to a close and his cringe romance shit. I also liked Maleev’s art, for the most part. Plus, I like the hell out of the Moon Knight character and wish I had read more of is stories over the years. I’m trying to rectify that now, as I’m older and have access to so much more.

This story is twelve issues long and it uses that space really well and wraps up much better than Bendis’ Daredevil run. I think that he went into this knowing where it needed to end and that since he had limited space to tell a story, he gave us something well structured that got to the point and gave us a satisfying conclusion.

In this story, we see Moon Knight dealing with his “hearing voices” problem in a fresh way. While he is recruited for a mission by Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man, he also starts seeing versions of them in his mind. Additionally, with such a close connection to them, he starts to use their gimmicks in his battles with L.A.’s criminal underworld.

That underworld is ruled by its own kingpin, similar to The Kingpin in New York City. However, this person’s identity is a mystery and Moon Knight is tasked with luring them out and discovering why exactly they wanted to buy a deactivated Ultron head.

Moon Knight also meets Echo, the two have a reluctant partnership but end up falling in love during their mission.

This becomes more and more high stakes as it rolls on. Out of the twelve issues, none of them are wasted on filler bullshit and the romance stuff is in there but it’s nowhere near as exhausting as what we got in Bendis’ Daredevil. It’s like Bendis improved in that regard and wrote something more natural and to the point. Nothing between Moon Knight and Echo seemed forced like it did between Daredevil and his wife Milla.

I also feel like Alex Maleev’s art was an improvement. It’s cleaner while also looking more detailed. It also fit the tone of the story pretty damn well.

I don’t want to say too much about the story, as there are some big reveals and twists but this is definitely worth reading if you want a superhero, neo-noir tale that isn’t Daredevil-centric.

Rating: 9/10

Comic Review: Batman: The Black Mirror

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Jock

DC Comics, 295 Pages

Review:

So this takes place when Dick Grayson was still Batman. That whole era gets screwy in my head and even though I’m a massive Nightwing fan, it’s like my brain blocks out that he was ever Batman, until I come across one of those stories and it jars me back into that strange stretch of reality.

This was written by Scott Snyder for Detective Comics before he would go on to his solid run in the main Batman comic.

So this is pretty damn dark, even for a Batman comic but I liked it quite a bit, as Snyder gives us some new villains, very different situations and also links these multiple stories together quite well.

While “The Black Mirror” story is just about the first third of this collection, the other tales build off of it and maintain the same tone.

My favorite part of this was the story about Commissioner Gordon’s serial killer son and whether or not he was truly “cured”. I’ve always liked this character and how he fucks with the heads of Jim Gordon and Barbara Gordon, whether she’s Oracle or later on when she went back to being Batgirl.

The art in this was distracting at first but I adjusted to it pretty quickly and liked how well it added to the brooding atmosphere of these stories.

Batman: The Black Mirror is weird for me because it takes place during Dick Grayson’s Batman stint and I think this would’ve been better with Bruce Wayne in the story. However, it’s still a neat collection of really dark tales and it helped set Snyder on the right path for his career.

Rating: 8.25/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: The Captain

Published: August 11th, 2021
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Bob Layton, David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bright, John Byrne, Kieron Dwyer, Tom Morgan

Marvel Comics, 499 Pages

Review:

The Epic Collection volume that preceded this one, laid the ground work for Steve Rogers being replaced as Captain America by John Walker, who would later become US Agent.

This volume is where Rogers goes away, Walker steps in and the series becomes really interesting, as it splits its time between the former Captain and his story, as well as the new Captain and the challenges he faces trying to fill the shoes of a man that will always be greater than him.

I enjoyed that this series kind of had a split personality for this run but it was all still tied to the core of the Captain America symbol and what it means for those who represent it and those in power who exploit it.

Where the preceding volume felt a bit “kiddie” in how it was written, the series turns pretty serious and really steps up to the plate when peeling back the layers of John Walker, Steve Rogers, both their sidekicks, the U.S. government’s involvement in all of this, as well as some important deaths and losses.

This really goes deep into the John Walker character and even though he’s been a prick up to this point and does some very dark shit, here, these issues humanize him, his situation and how he comes to the realization that even though he’s the best choice for the role of Captain America on paper, he’s still missing that x-factor that made Steve Rogers the Captain America.

The writing in this stretch of issues really went to another level, which I think was important in conveying the weight of this story. This also had real gravitas and minor characters that initially don’t seem to matter too much, mean a lot to you when certain things transpire, which I won’t spoil.

All in all, I really enjoyed the hell out of this and it’s far superior to Disney’s loose adaptation of it in The Flacon and the Winter Solider.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Black Widow (2021)

Release Date: June 30th, 2021 (Madrid fan event premiere)
Directed by: Cate Shortland
Written by: Eric Pearson, Jac Schaeffer, Ned Benson
Based on: Marvel Comics
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenie, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (cameo), Jeremy Renner (cameo, voice)

Truenorth Productions, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 134 Minutes

Review:

“[to Natasha and Yelena] You both have killed so many people. Your ledgers must be dripping, just gushing red. I couldn’t be more proud of you.” – Alexei Shostakov

I initially planned to see this in the theater but I was travelling for work when this came out and by the time I got caught up and was going to finally see it, it was gone. Also, I wasn’t going to pay an additional $29.99 to watch it on Disney+ when it would be free a few months later. That price tag is stupid, especially when HBO Max drops the new movies without any additional cost. But this isn’t a “bitch about how dumb and greedy Disney is” article, it’s a movie review about the long overdue first (and only) film about one of the greatest Marvel Cinematic Universe characters.

Sadly, this doesn’t live up to any hype one would have for it. Also, it’s five years too late and had it been made five years ago, it probably would’ve been a much better, much more coherent and much more entertaining picture.

Also, this proves that wedging a chapter in the MCU franchise into a previous point in the timeline, further fucks up and wrecks that timeline. Captain Marvel, Avengers: EndgameLoki and probably some other things have also done this and created serious continuity issues, not to mention, altering characters in ways that don’t make sense or ruins them.

If you can completely turn your brain off and watch this without questioning anything, it’s probably an entertaining spy thriller. I can do that with many things but not with the nearly 30th entry into a thirteen year-old franchise that features a title character that has existed in eleven of those thirteen years.

There are so many problems with this movie like its terrible plot and incoherent logic, the fact that Black Widow is apparently made out of titanium, Taskmaster isn’t in anyway Taskmaster, the main villain is by far the worst in the franchise and it has the worst pacing and editing of any MCU movie.

I won’t harp on about how a small prop plane full of bullet holes can’t fly from Ohio to Cuba with S.H.I.E.L.D. in pursuit or how secret intel is sent to a safehouse used by many other people after its existence was made known to S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra and everyone else. I won’t talk about how the entire movie was a string of plot conveniences and contrivances where if just one thing didn’t go smoothly, the entire story would’ve been fucked. I won’t grill the filmmakers about the stupidity of a secret flying fortress in a world with the MCU‘s technology, Tony Stark, Skrulls, Kree, satellites and Google f’n Earth. I won’t bring up physics or how the human body reacts to explosions, smashing into hard objects during free fall or how joints, muscles, nerves and nose cartilage work.

So since I won’t spend thousands of words on the stuff just mentioned, I will talk about how the characters never felt right. Natasha’s family felt forced and just wedged in to her personal mythos. Where were any of these people during the events of Infinity War and Endgame? Not to mention the twenty or so other Black Widows that Natasha freed at the end of the film. Mathematically, roughly half of those Widows would’ve survived Thanos’ snap and could’ve been helping Natasha, who was essentially running the show when half the world and its heroes disappeared. Ten-to-twelve Widows would’ve been really helpful in the first act of Endgame and twenty or more showing up for the final battle with Thanos could’ve been a hell of an advantage, especially a Taskmaster fighting on the side of good. Hell, we could’ve gotten a Captain America and Red Guardian team-up moment.

Additionally, we never really get to explore her time in the Black Widow program, which I’m pretty sure was something that everyone was anticipating. So here we have a character that’s appeared in at least half, if not most, of the MCU films and she doesn’t really have an origin story. There’s the ridiculous opening sequence in this movie and a credits montage but beyond that, everything we know about the character’s past is revealed through clunky dialogue. Dialogue which may or may not be reliable considering the villain is well… a fucking villain and Natasha and her sister Yelena have both had their minds altered on some level.

Getting to Taskmaster, I honestly don’t care that the character is a woman and out of respect for her gender, I’ll refer to her now as Taskmistress. My issue with the character was that other than being able to instantaneously learn from her opponents and mimic them, she wasn’t Taskmaster in any other regard. Taskmistress is a completely different character created from completely different circumstances, devoid of personality, devoid of style, missing the iconic skull face and thus, totally lacking the character’s charisma and coolness. Taskmistress is just generic super soldier cyborg lady. And what’s even more distressing is that she is clearly a man until the helmet comes off for what was meant to be a shocking reveal but was honestly, more expected than my cousin Lindsey getting pregnant again.

Look, I like this character and I like Scarlett Johansson and her commitment to this character over what may be a dozen movies now. The problem is that she deserved a movie earlier than this and she also deserved a better story than this. Hell, she probably should’ve had three movie by now, just like the boys on the Avengers team… well, except Hawkeye but that’s another sore subject with me.

Through this, I also liked Florence Pugh as Yelena and I don’t hate the idea of her taking the mantle if Johansson is truly done with it. However, her being sent on a mission to kill Hawkeye for “murdering” her sister is retarded, as the Avengers are more famous in their world than Scarlett Johansson is in ours. Yelena would’ve known that Hawkeye was her sister’s best friend and teammate, as the entire world knows that they’re both Avengers. Man, the MCU is run by idiots these days but just look at what Disney has done to Star Wars.

Before I go, I guess my last bone to pick is in regards to Red Guardian. So we’re supposed to accept that this guy is a smart badass that has high technical prowess and is somewhat on Captain America’s level as a fighter and hero. Yet he’s Fat Thor turned up to eleven with a Russian accent and communist tattoos that make him look like a Portland SJW angrily tweeting from a MacBook Pro in a corporate chain cafe sipping an $11 coffee and eating a $7 vegan muffin. I’m supposed to accept that this slobby juvenile idiot was his country’s Captain America and that he has actual smarts?

Anyway, I’m glad I just waited to watch this for free… or with my existing subscription. It’s not as bad as Captain Marvel was but it’s honestly in the same ballpark. Everything in this is pretty forgettable and as we’ve seen, none of it mattered to the bigger picture of the MCU. At least Captain Marvel set up some things. Not things I specifically want to see but it had more of an effect on the franchise. I guess this will tie directly to the Hawkeye television series but Yelena gunning for Clint Barton is fucking stupid for reasons I already explained.

Rating: 5.75/10

Comic Review: What If THIS Was the Fantastic Four – A Tribute to Mike Wieringo

Published: June, 2008
Written by: Mike Wieringo, various
Art by: Mike Wieringo, various

Marvel Comics, 48 Pages

Review:

Back in the early ’90s when I was spending all of my allowance money on comics, the short-lived Fantastic Four team of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk and Ghost Rider blew my adolescent, pre-teen mind. I was always kind of bummed that it was over as quick as it started but I loved the team and had always wanted to see more of them as a unit.

While they never got a series or anything more than a few issues and a Marvel trading card, the world was given this pretty cool issue of What If?, which was also a tribute to Mike Wieringo, who was working on the issue when he died.

Due to Wieringo’s passing, this issue was completed by other people stepping up to get it done and to get it out as a tribute.

This is a pretty cool story but because it’s a single issue of What If?, they have to cram a lot into a limited space. So this progresses through time quickly, once it gets rolling.

There are several villains and some hero cameos in this. The highlight for me was seeing Sandman form a new Frightful Four team that included himself, Venom, Sabretooth and Abomination. While I don’t like the lineup as much as the original Frightful Four, it was a cool villain group tailor made for the new Fantastic Four.

All in all, this was a blast to read and it churned up feelings of nostalgia for when I first read the debut of this team nearly thirty years ago.

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: Cyberfrog: Unfrogettable Tales, Vol. 3

Published: August, 2021
Written by: Ethan Van Sciver
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver, Kyle Ritter

All Caps Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

I actually forgot that this was something that was coming my way, as it was packaged with another Cyberfrog release and I ordered that sometime last year. But I don’t remember half of what’s coming from the stuff I bought on crowdfunding sites, as many projects are severely delayed and with that, I stopped caring.

Granted, Ethan Van Sciver’s stuff always shows up and the work is always top notch.

This was the third release under the Unfrogettable Tales title and with that, it features an old school, original Cyberfrog comic, remastered and recolored for modern fans, who might not have even been alive when this was originally released. And even if they were, Cyberfrog was still pretty damn underground in the character’s early days.

This was pretty fun to read, I loved the art, the humor and the new color work by Kyle Ritter is just f’n amazing. That dude has immense talent and I’m glad to see him keep getting work with Van Sciver while also working on his own series, Starblades.

Because this is an old school, ’90s Cyberfrog story, it takes place way before the current stories, which see Earth overrun by an alien threat with small pockets of humanity hiding in the shadows. So with this, we see Cyberfrog still in the world when it was normal. We also get to see one of his earliest encounters with Heather Swain, who would become his best friend and confidant.

For fans of the modern revival of Cyberfrog, reading this old stuff will add more context to the stories that are currently being produced. So if you love world building, nuance, context and all that important shit that gives exciting tales deeper meaning, then you should be reading these as well.

Rating: 7.5/10